The Legislature sent its rewrite of the voter-approved legal marijuana bill, with a higher tax rate and less power for voters, to the governor on Thursday, 255 days after about 1.8 million voters put the law on the books.
House and Senate negotiators had planned to get a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker by June 30, but their talks dragged on this month amid disagreements over tax rates, local control and other issues. Both branches accepted the conference committee report (H 3818) Wednesday and on Thursday officially enacted it.
“You have heard that this is a combination of three bills. It is not,” Sen. Patricia Jehlen, the lead Senate conferee, said on the floor. “It is a combination of law passed by the voters in two different referenda, the Senate bill, the House bill and the regulations issued by the Department of Public Health … so this was not just difficult philosophically but it was very difficult to draft.”
The Senate enacted the bill on a 32-6 recorded vote, with Democrat Sen. John Keenan joining Republicans Bruce Tarr, Vinny deMacedo, Donald Humason, Patrick O’Connor and Ryan Fattman in voting no.
The next decisions now rest with Baker, who opposed Question 4 legalizing recreational marijuana but has expressed a willingness to get on with the business of implementing the legal marijuana market voters indicated they want. It’s unclear whether he might have any additional recommendations that could be proposed in the form of amendments that would further delay the implementation of the law.
The governor has said he wants to see the updates in place soon so the regulatory structure can be developed, and has said the biggest preference in the setting of a tax rate is that it be sufficient to cover the costs of marijuana regulation. He has also